Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell last week had a simple message for the Advisory Committee on Recreational Affairs and representatives of the citizen Stakeholders Committee that is updating the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
Daniell said the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget contains only one new full-time position, and that will go to the Parks and Recreation Department.
Daniell said that the proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax budget for Fiscal Year 2018 includes $2 million for completion of multi-use fields at Oconee Veterans Park.
That is on top of the $.8 million in SPLOST money budgeted to pay against the debt for purchase of the land for and construction of Oconee Veterans Park.
But there is a limit to what the county can do, Daniell said, and when the county spends nearly as much on Parks and Recreation from its General Fund Budget as it spends on roads in the county, it raises questions.
Daniell’s made his comments at the end of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Recreational Affairs last Tuesday at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park.
Daniell waited until after Parks and Recreation Director John Gentry discussed the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget request and after Becky Moore and Pat Sebring from the Stakeholders Committee gave their report on discussions with that group about parks and green space.
Gentry, Moore and Sebring reported that a subcommittee of the Stakeholders Committee is calling for more park space, for increased staffing for the Parks and Recreation Department, for a natatorium, and for funding for a master plan.
Before that discussion, Lisa Davol, Parks and Recreation deputy director, reminded the group of the Memorial Day program on May 29 at the Oconee County Veterans Memorial located at the front of Oconee Veterans Park.
The event, which begins at 5 p.m., includes antique equipment displays, various Veteran organizational information tents, and an ice cream vendor.
The guest speaker for the ceremony, which begins at 7 p.m., is Vietnam War Veteran Donna Rowe, who will discuss her experience as the 3rd Field Hospital Head Emergency Room triage nurse in Saigon.
This was the first meeting of the Recreational Affairs Committee Daniell has attended since he took over as chairman in January.
Daniell told those present that, if the county waited until it had the SPLOST funds in hand before authorizing completion of the multi-purpose fields, as is normal procedure, it would be another three to four years.
“Everybody is agreement to forward fund that project,” Daniell said, given the case Gentry had made of the need, “and that is not an easy task, because we are very young in that collection, and it’s going to take some real maneuvering to make that cash flow work.”
Daniell told the group that the current Fiscal Year budget includes $2.6 million for Parks and Recreation and $2.7 million for Public Works.
“They’re running neck and neck,” Daniell said. “So Parks and Rec is a high priority, financially as well as the facilities that you see.”
Daniell noted that “Every time the budget year comes around, I kind of look at that number. We’ve got roads that are really falling apart, probably some in your subdivisions, and before we surpass what we spend on roads with parks and rec, we’ve got to have a real good look at what’s happening.
“So that’s why there are a lot of questions back and forth and push back here and there,” Daniell said. “It’s a matter of being financially responsible.”
Horton Spoke Too
Commissioner Chuck Horton also attended the meeting and spoke in support of Daniell.
“If we had $40 million for roads,” Horton said. “We’d need $40 million again.”
At the meeting of the Board of Commissioners on May 11, Finance Director Wes Geddings presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget, which will be before the BOC for consideration tomorrow night.
That budget recommends $2.86 million for Parks and Recreation and $2.85 million for Public Works.
The actual approved 2017 had included $2.67 million for Parks and Recreation and $2.81 million for Public Works, according to the figures Geddings released at that May 11 meeting.
The video below is of the complete meeting of the Recreational Affairs Committee.
Chairman Daniell started his comments at 1:02:05 in the video.
Commissioner Horton followed Daniell.